EU cash blow spells delay for cargo ferry

THE launch of a new freight ferry service linking Shetland with Norway has been delayed at least until next year following a hitch in securing a European cash injection.

Businessman John White has had to alter his plans to make Shetland a cargo hub for Europe after his application to the European Commission’s Marco Polo fund fell foul of bureaucratic scrutiny.

The former civil engineer announced plans earlier this year to operate a cargo ship between Kristiansund and Lerwick, with connections to Orkney, Aberdeen and Scrabster through the existing NorthLink service, by the end of this year.

A second, larger ship was also planned to run between Kristiansund, Zeebrugge and Rosyth.

Naming the venture Norshukon – an acronym of Norway, Shetland, UK and onwards – Mr White initially pinned his hopes on the Marco Polo funding to help buy one of the freight vessels needed for the venture.

But after a lengthy delay over the summer, his application has now been turned down. European officials feared his plans for the service between Zeebrugge and Rosyth would clash with an existing service on that route run by Superfast.

They asked him to drop his projected cargo figures from that leg of his venture to prevent any unwanted competition arising.

Complying with the request meant his total projected cargo fell below a required threshold for the funding to be put in place.

However, weeks after submitting his application Superfast withdrew from the route, and now Mr White is preparing to submit a revised application for the funding. He hopes to run a slimmed down service with one freight vessel from January next year.

“A delay in the start of the service could bring about some benefits to the route as the new vessel that I was planning to introduce to the route later in 2009 will be the vessel which I now propose to start the route with,” he said.

“This vessel is larger and more fuel efficient than the one I would have used had we started this year so there is some benefit to be had from the delay.”


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